The Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab blocked Jail Road in front of Services Hospital for around three hours on Wednesday as it kicked off a fresh campaign of protests to push for revisions to the service structure for doctors.
The protest was peaceful, but combined with construction work at Ferozepur Road, caused traffic gridlock around the city. It could have been much worse had it not rained. The YDA had planned to continue the demonstration until the evening, but the 150 or so protesting doctors trudged off when it started raining around 1:30pm.
Earlier this year, YDA doctors went on strike at outpatient departments at public hospitals to press for changes to their service structure. In July, the Lahore High Court instructed the doctors not to boycott their jobs and set up a committee with representatives of the government and various doctors’ groups to negotiate a service structure deal. However, that has still not happened.
YDA officials said that protests and sit-ins were held all over the province. YDA Jinnah Hospital doctors also blocked Canal Bank Road at around 10:30am for a little while before joining the main protest on Jail Road.
The protesters carried placards with their demands while banners demanding changes to the service structure were put up inside Services Hospital and PIC. They staged a sit-in on the road between the Punjab Institute of Cardiology and Race Course Park. However, they did give passage to ambulances heading for the Services Hospital and PIC emergency wards. The district coordination officer had earlier warned that a murder case would be registered against the protesting doctors should a patient die in an ambulance stuck in a traffic jam caused by their sit-in.
YDA Punjab President Dr Hamid Butt said that negotiations between the doctors and the government over changes to the service structure had stalled.
“We have proposed that all ad hoc doctors be put into a pool and then be subject to a uniform policy.
A merit list should be formed and they should be appointed on merit. We have also demanded that the Health Department treat senior registrars who have served for three years as assistant professors. The government hasn’t responded so far,” he said.
Dr Butt said that YDA chapters in Gujrat, Gujranwala, Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi had held demonstrations on Wednesday. He said that all the protests were peaceful and had no affect on the provision of healthcare at public hospitals.
He said that the YDA had not yet decided when to hold demonstrations outside the Chief Minister’s Secretariat or GOR-I, but it would hold such protests if their demands for changes to the service structure were not met.
In Bahawalpur, doctors blocked Circular Road. YDA Punjab Vice Chairman Dr Tanveer Bajwa said that the doctors had been forced to protest by the Punjab government’s refusal to accept their demands. He said everyone had a right to protest.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2012.